Monday, March 31, 2008

Umstead 100 is coming fast

My home 100 Ultra is coming up this weekend and I'm getting excited to once again challenge myself on this course.
I learned of ultramarathons soon after I began running in 1977 but it wasn't until 1998 that I saw one first- hand. At the time I was doing little running and playing in an over 40 soccer league. I knew that the Umstead race had been held for a few years (1994 was the first) but had not made an effort to check it out. But on this day, I had a soccer game in Cary so before my game started I decided to drive into the park and check things out. I stood around watching for about an hour before it was time to head over to my game. Afterwards I returned to the park to watch some more around 1PM.
I had not been there long when I decided to start helping at the aid station at the lodge. I was amazed and intrigued by these amazing people and wanted to learn and experience as much as I could. I was soon put to work recording the runners split times as they came around to finish each loop. Eric Clifton would be the winner that year and I was in amazement that after running so far that he could still run so fast at the end. I also remember meeting Joel Zucker from NY. He was quite loquacious and made an impression on everyone around I'm sure. Sadly Joel, one of the founders of the ultralistserv would die later that year after finishing the Hardrock 100.
Also that Fall, I would tear my ACL in a game ending my life as a soccer player. I was Blessed to have a miraculous recovery from the knee injury and 3 months later began trying to see if I could become a runner again. I started cycling and swimming as part of my rehab of the knee and began participating in Triathlons. I continued to return as a volunteer for a few hours at Umstead the following years. Finally in 2002 I ran my first ultra and my knee was stronger than ever before the injury and to this day has never been a problem for me. Then in 2004 I was finally ready to run my first Umstead 100.
I hope to have time to post my report from that race this week if I can find the time. Until then you can check out the race website here

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The First Race: The Natural Light Classic 10K

March 11th, 1978 was my initiation into racing and a major turning point in my life. Prior to that day I was just running for general fitness and was more interested in trying to put some muscle on this skinny frame. think I weighed in at about 132 pounds in this picture. You have to love the outfit and the large paper number. And dig that mustache.
So anyway, I was running about 10 miles a week with maybe a couple of weeks that I ran 13 and 15 miles. I had run one 5 miler in December on the track with my boss just to see if I could go that far. We did that run at exactly 8mp. I was aware of the Olympics and the Boston Marathon but had just recently learned that there were actually "fun runs" open to regular people and that you didn't have to be an elite athlete to participate, so when I saw they were having one in Winston Salem I decided that I would like to try it out. I had no idea what I was doing and knew no one to ask for advice so two days before the race I did my 2nd 5 mile training run.
We got up early Saturday morning for the 2 hour drive to Winston Salem and search for Hanes Park where the race was to be held. We got directions at a gas station after arriving in town and soon found our way to the Park. It was a beautiful morning in the 50's with the high eventually reaching the mid-60's. I was surprised at the wide range of runners milling around. Mostly men but there were several women and quite a few older men( kind of like me now). I was nervous and a bit intimidated by the whole thing so I found a spot in the middle of the pack as we lined up on the street. I wasn't too happy to see that we would start on a hill and that the first mile would be all uphill. What follows is taken from my running journal entry for that day.

I ran my first race today, the Natural Light Classic 10K at Hanes Park in Winston-Salem. There were 280 entrants.The first mile was mostly uphill and I started out easy and hit the first mile in 9:15. I never knew a mile could seem so far as that first one and I was worried at how many people were passing me.( afterwards based on how many I passed and my finishing spot, I was in about 200th place then) . I thought my time was kind of slow so I picked up the pace as the course flattened out finally. The next two miles seemed to last forever too but I was happy to get my time for 3 miles in 24:00 ( I was feeling good and I usually ran 8mp in training)
Between miles 1 and 3 my hill training began to show. There were several short, gentle hills and I kept up my pace and actually began passing about half the people I would pass in the race on these hills. I made a mistake and grabbed a cup of water and tried to swallow on the run. It messed up my breathing and all of a sudden my stomach hurt and I felt tired. It took me until mile 4 to get back into my rhythm and feel good again. Miles 3 to 5 were nearly flat and straight and I began to feel stronger and confident after my stomach felt better again at mile 4.
I reached 5 miles in 41:00 which meant that I had lost about a minute with the water problem. The last 1.2 miles were mostly downhill back the same way we had started. I was feeling great and picked up the pace and was steadily passing people. When I saw the chute at the finish line
and the hundreds of people cheering me on and knew I had finished still feeling strong, I grinned from ear to ear the last 50 yards I was so happy. My time was 48:59, a 7:54 overall pace and about 40 seconds faster than I had hoped for.( shooting for 8MP) I finished in 176th place( There were a lot of serious runners and not too many joggers in those days)

From that days experience, I was hooked on racing and running and my interest in body-building was replaced with dreams of pr's and future races.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Umstead Trail Marathon 2008

Next year, we're going to come back here and run this thing in 4 hours Tony said. I said ,yeah, I'm sure we can do that if we just leave out that out and back spur on the Cedar Ridge Trail from mile 21 to 24.

This was my 4th time running this race. I missed the 2nd year because I waited too late to sign up but I did volunteer that year. And for the 4th time I had a bad race. For the 3rd year in a row I had my frequent trail companion Tony Rouse along for the fun. It seems funny how both of us find a way to fall apart at this race. Two years ago we could blame the unseasonably hot weather. Last year we went out way to hard, but this year we couldn't come up with an explanation. I guess it's just a hard race but you would think maybe we could feel good just one time.
I really didn't know how I wanted to run this year and really only made up my mind the night before the race. I decided I would go out easy for the first couple of miles and see how I felt. If I felt great I'd go for a fast time. If I just felt OK, then I would continue to run easy and call it a workout in preparation for the upcoming 100 in April. I arrived at Camp Lapihio about 45 minutes before the race and carried my bag inside and went to check in. That took a while because of seeing so many friends to greet. That is one of the great attractions of this local race . I was very happy to see my great friend Margo, as soon as I entered the lodge. This is where I first met her 3 years ago. My friend Jerry had told me about this this amazing Italian Marathon Lady and I recognized her from his description as we ran along in the first mile. I introduced myself and I'm sure she must have thought I was a bit strange as she quickly pulled away. Since that day she has become one of my dearest friends and has played a big part in my becoming a more social person instead of the former hermit of a few years ago. Thats her with the black leggings waiting in the potty line with the Ever Lovely Mrs. Doom and Marie behind her.
Finally it was time to start so everyone gathered outside and suddenly 5 minutes before the start a thunderstorm passed over soaking us all. Fortunately it wasn't cold and the rain stopped by the time we reached the 1st mile. I was cruising along easily and chatting with Doom, Mark Long, and Mike Day. By mile 2 they begin to pull away and I was not ready to push the pace yet. I was waiting to see how I felt once we hit the single- track. Tony caught up to me just as I started onto the Company Mill Trail and we began our usual race chatter. No one else has come close to running as many miles in trail races and ultra's with me than Tony. And the funny thing is we have never planned on running one together. It just seems at some point we seem to find one another and our paces are very similar. Some days he pulls ahead, some days I'm feeling better and then days like today we end up running to the finish. I've lost count of the number of times we have tied at the end.
So as we ran down the hill to the creek bottom, I was tempted to pass some slower runners but held back still waiting since we still had 23 miles to go. As we came to the first climb it became obvious to me that I would not be breaking 4 ours today. Margo caught up to us and I introduced her and Tony. I was really enjoying the single-track sections. The rain from the day before and the morning had the trails nice and wet with mud and standing water. It wasn't the yucky, sticky kind of mud though. Just the fun splashy kind that makes you feel like a kid playing around. We ran together for a while until we came to the bridle trail again. Margo pulled ahead after the aid station and would stay ahead the rest of the day despite having just ran the Little Rock Marathon last weekend. What a strong lady. As we ran down the hill to began the Sycamore Trail I told Tony, that I would not be trying for a fast time today. He agreed that the pace should have felt a lot easier than it did so we would just try to have fun and get in a good workout. I figured as lousy as I'd run in the past I could just take it easy and still end up with a course PR at least.
So for the next couple of hours we would just cruise along having fun and greeting friends on the out and back sections. We were separated for about a mile on the North Turkey Creek Trail as I was walking faster than Tony and he decided to let me go. But I was in no hurry and soon he caught back up to me. It was while he was behind me that I came into the most interesting aid station of the day. Several young ladies were dressed up in evening dresses and had a Prom theme. One of the signs said to kiss the Prom Queen and not being a guy that can turn down a chance to kiss a pretty young girl, I took her up on the offer. They all got very excited and said I was the first person to actually get a kiss. Makes me wonder what's wrong with all the other guys. Well, I guess some of them Are married.
By the time we came off Turkey Creek I was pretty much toast. I was tired and moving slow and with another 10 miles to go I was afraid it would be a long day. At least I could still get that course pr if I just kept moving. Not. I was well hydrated and had taken in plenty of calories but it was just not to be today. By the time we began the climb up the Cedar Ridge Trail it was obvious that even beating last years time would not be happening today. Very disappointing but at least it would soon be over. Ended up in 4:43:35, about 6 minutes slower than last year. But within a few minutes I was smiling again and enjoying the company of many MTC friends in the Lodge. Tony announced our plan to return next year and run under 4hours. I said I think instead I'm going to give up this long distance stuff and go back to running 5K's . Slowly.
Yeah right. See you at the 100 miler in three weeks.

Thanks to MTC member Ron Horton for the photos. Here is a link to the one he took.

And here is his race report with even more photos.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

NCRC Volunteer Appreciation Party

And the winner is? Ultraman Joey Anderson !

This past Saturday Evening, March 1st the NCRC held it's Volunteer Appreciation Party. In the past it had been a sit-down dinner and only open to volunteers that had worked at least 20 hours and those with 40 or more could invite a guest for free. This year the format was changed to a more casual affair and anyone in the club could pay $15 and attend. Almost everyone I spoke to liked the new format since it allowed more club members to attend, yet still reward the volunteers.
In years past there were racing teams at most local races from clubs and other groups but now most races don't offer to team competition. One of the things that the NCRC has tried to do recently is to offer something for the more competitive members of the club. Last year we ( the club executive committee) asked for volunteers to step forward to organize a racing team for the club. Mike Zimmerman, owner of The Athlete's Foot stepped up to sponsor the team and supply shirts and singlets. Which brings me back to the photo and the opening of this story.
That is me accepting the award for NCRC Racing Team Grandmaster of the year. I was surprised to receive the award, but then I think I may be the only Grandmaster Male on the Team? Well, although I didn't compete in any short distances the past year, except to run with Karla for fun, I did have a pretty good year at the longer stuff. I opened up the year with a 100 mile PR of 23:15 in Rocky Raccoon and set several course pr's in some 50K's. I ended up the year with a 50K pr at Derby and was the first Grandmaster for the 2nd year in a row. The young man in the background is Travis Wills, the men's team leader. The very pretty young lady I have latched onto in the picture is our ladies team leader, Erin White. Ahh, if only I was 25 years younger.

Thanks to all the volunteers that made this evening a huge success. I look forward to another great year for the NCRC and more racing!